Sacramento Bee file photograph/Brian Baer
The deal closed in May, but word is just starting to get around that one of Sacramento's more venerable restaurants has changed hands. That would be Plaza Hof Brau, founded as Sam's Hof Brau along Watt Avenue in 1959 by legendary restaurateur Sam Gordon, who died in 1998 at 91.
Over the past 48 years, the restaurant has changed little, adhering to the principles of the traditional German hof brau - big portions of hearty fare at value prices in a practical and comfortable setting. That formula won't change significantly, vows Derrick Fong, who heads up Hof Brau Restaurant Group. Fong is the CEO of the thriving and growing group of Mikuni restaurants, and while several of the "seven or eight" partners who brought the hof brau also are with Mikuni this investment is separate from Mikuni's operations, says Fong.
"If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it," says Fong, repeating a longstanding canon of the way Plaza Hof Brau has been run since Gordon founded the restaurant. In 1992, Gordon sold the restaurant to Pete and Mary Lennarz, who in turn sold it this spring to Hof Brau Restaurant Group. Pete Lennarz began working for Gordon as a teenager.
Fong says his group has been sprucing up the building, installing some new equipment, increasing the efficiency of its takeout program and experimenting with dishes that may be added to the menu. The restaurant recently ran a special on ribs, for example, and though the crew thought they had stocked enough to last from the Thursday to the Saturday of the promotion they ran out on Friday, says Fong.
The restaurnt is averaging about 1,200 meals a day, and while its clientele tends to be older, Fong is seeing a shift to a younger customer. That's got him to thinking that the hof-brau concept may be in for a revival, and he's already talking of additional restaurants, the first possibly in Rocklin and Reno. "The concept has a lot of potential," says Fong. "It's great value."